Indiscriminate attacks against civilians in Tigray region, Ethiopia

Children at school Children at school Photo by Bill Vegener on Unsplash

12 February 2020

Internal conflict in Ethiopia has forced large parts of the population to flee, causing over 200 thousand people to become internally displaced.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently documented indiscriminate shelling perpetrated against the civilian population of urban areas in Tigray in November 2020. The attacks, targeting civilians and infrastructure not considered strategic for the military, are in contravention of the laws of war applicable to the region's armed conflict.

Between 9 and 28 November 2020, several bombings occurred in the northern part of Ethiopia in the cities of Humera, Shire, and Mekelle. These cities were controlled by the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF), a political party which formed part of Ethiopia’s governing coalition until 2019. Civilian structures including hospitals, schools, homes, private buildings, factories and businesses were shelled and destroyed by Ethiopian Federal forces. As stated by HRW, conflict between the Ethiopian Federal government and the TPLF, originating with TPLF orchestrated attacks against federal army camps, caused at least 83 deaths, including those of several children. A precise number of casualties is hard to estimate as the Tigray region remains inaccessible to aid workers and the media. Nevertheless, according to HRW the shelling has left 200,000 people internally displaced and forced tens of thousands to flee to neighbouring Sudan. 

According to investigations, carried out by HRW through satellite images and testimonies, the shelling appeared to be directed against the civilian population rather than specific military targets. In light of this evidence, HRW is calling for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to send a fact-finding team into the region to investigate alleged violations of the laws of war and ensure that evidence of abuses is preserved. In addition to these measures, HRW is putting pressure on the Ethiopian government to recognize these violations and hold perpetrators accountable for war crimes.


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Author: Martina Ravagnani; Editor: Alexander Collin

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